EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Texas Court of Appeals Finds Juror's Note Inadmissible Under Rule 606(b)

Similar to its federal counterpart, Texas Rule of Evidence 606(b)(1) provides that

During an inquiry into the validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify about any statement made or incident that occurred during the jury’s deliberations; the effect of anything on that juror’s or another juror’s vote; or any juror’s mental processes concerning the verdict or indictment. The court may not receive a juror’s affidavit or evidence of a juror’s statement on these matters.

So, does this rule also apply to a note sent by a juror to the judge during the punishment phase of trial? That was the question addressed today in State v. Gallien, 2021 WL 3556016 (Tex.App. 2021).

In Gallien, a jury found Dennis Edward Gallien guilty of aggravated robbery. Subsequently, during the punishment phase of trial,

the jury foreman sent a note to the trial court notifying it that the jury was spilt 11-1 regarding whether to find the two enhancement allegations true. The trial court instructed the jury to continue deliberating.
 
The following day, the jury foreman sent another jury note to the trial court. The note was handwritten by Juror No. 32 and stated:
 
What if a juror feels that they were pressured by their peers into a guilty verdict?
I expressed to all of my fellow jurors that I was not comfortable with a guilty verdict due to the fact that the detective did not both confirm that the defendant understood and waived his rights. I feel that his Miranda rights were violated.
That violation coupled with the witness testimony gave me cause for reasonable doubt and I believe the defendant to be innocent. Fearing that I would be bullied, I changed my verdict to guilty.
Now that we are in the punishment phase, the exact thing that I feared has come to pass as I have been belittled, berated, and threatened with perjury of court due to my beliefs regarding the additional charges being considered in sentencing.
Honestly, I am not comfortable with this entire process and am not sure how to proceed.

In deeming this note inadmissible in support of Gallien's motion for a new trial, the court concluded that

Textually, Rule 606(b) applies only to inquiries into the validity of an indictment or a verdict to determine a juror's competency to act as a witness in those inquiries....The rule does not limit its application to post-trial evidence, nor does it exclude from its application a juror's statement provided after the guilty verdict but before the end of trial....And, given that the rule applies to inquiries into a verdict's validity, it logically follows that the rule's application is not limited to post-trial evidence but also applies to a juror's testimony or statement obtained post-verdict even if obtained before the trial's end as part of the proceedings. Supporting this conclusion, Texas courts have characterized Rule 606(b) as prohibiting consideration of a juror's post-verdict testimony or statements.

-CM

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2021/08/similar-to-its-federal-counterpart-texas-rule-of-evidence-606b1-provides-that-during-an-inquiry-into-the-validity-of.html

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